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Punters still puzzled by broadband ads

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It will come as no surprise to regular readers that 90 per cent of UK consumers are confused by broadband advertising - we'd have to assume the missing ten per cent are marketing bods for ISPs.

Virgin Media is to publish "typical" speeds for customers on its different packages, having found that 90 per cent of those it surveyed found it hard to compare services based on "up to [X]" speed claims.

Some 93 per cent of 1,000 people surveyed said advertising rules should stop ISPs making "up to" claims unless they had some connection to likely real world speeds.

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned several broadband ads - BT was the latest in the firing line.

Ofcom has also called on the industry to pull itself together - its recent research found that people are likely to get about half the speed that is advertised, and that speeds are actually falling.

And of course Virgin's claim to transparency is unlikely to satisfy everyone.

A spokeswoman for the company explained it had worked with SamKnows to get its "typical speed" figures. She said there were no figures for regional variations because the company hasn't got that level of detail itself yet.

It uses a panel of hundreds of Virgin users spread around the country, and uses thousands of line tests to find an average over a 24-hour period, then ranks panelists according to speed. It then takes the 66th fastest speed out of 100 to find the "typical speed" that most of its users could expect to enjoy.

Results for July showed Virgin hitting 9.3Mb for those on "up to 10Mb" services, 18.3Mb for those on 20Mb services and 46.2Mb for those on 50Mb packages.

Virgin gets some credit for this increased transparency, but the likes of BT will say it is unfair to compare a fibre-optic network with its ageing copper network and wider, rural, spread.

John Petter, managing director of BT’s Consumer Division, said: “Averages are no more relevant to customers than maximum speed...The solution to consumer confusion is explaining clearly what speeds customers can expect on their individual lines when they sign-up. BT already gives customers the most consistently accurate prediction of the speed specific to their line. And the honesty and clarity of a personalised speed quote is something we plan to concentrate much more on in the future, making our predictions even better - and to confirm them in writing.”

Petter said talking about averages was a nonsense for individual consumers. He also noted the lack of figures for upload times and said BT was busy building its 21CN network.

Virgin's July figures are here. ®

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